This weekend we’re giving Headfonia readers our early impressions of the new Topping E30 Digital to Analogue Converter, now on sale now for $129.99.
Each Sunday we give Headfonia readers a sneak-peek at new gear that we have in the review pipeline, along with some of our early thoughts and impressions. We were sent the E30 free of charge by HiFiGo in exchange for our honest impressions – as always, our thoughts and conclusions are our own.
Upping the ‘entry-level’ game
Have you been on the fence about dipping your toes into the personal audio world? Well, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge than right now. Trickle-down technology is offering budget-oriented punters levels of performance only previously available with flagship or seriously expensive gear, and Chinese manufacturer Topping Audio has been one of the brands leading the charge in these stakes. Topping has been consistently delivering a range of feature-laden gear in recent years that not only represents great value, but also performs extremely well from an objectivist and measurement-sense. You can check out some of our previous review of their gear here.
We were excited to have their latest entry-level DAC – the new $129.99 E30 – arrive at Headfonia for review, as on paper alone its features and specs are hugely impressive. In its simplest form, the E30 is a USB digital to analogue converter based around the AK4493 chipset which decodes 1’s and 0’s into the stuff that you and I know as ‘music’. For the asking price, that already feels like a fairly reasonable proposition, but as you keep scrolling through the E30’s features it becomes an even more valuable and interesting one.
The E30 generously offers optical and coaxial digital inputs in addition to USB, which is a welcome addition at this price. It’s also capable of dealing with the most high-res of files, being able to decode PCM up to 32-Bit/768kHz as well as DSD up to DSD512. Not that I have many music files in my library even close to that resolution, but that’s impressive for an entry-level device.
The Topping E30’s most interesting inclusion versus its competitors around this price-tier is the fact that it has a multi-function remote, as well as a host of user-configurable settings. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this little ‘pocket-rocket’ of a DAC gave me the option to not only switch between inputs, but also choose between six digital filter settings, display and standby setting, but most impressively…volume! Yep, that’s right – the E30 can operate as a digital pre-amp, meaning that you can use it as the control hub for powered monitors, or even a power amp. That’s pretty rad.
The E30 is a premium-feeling, well-put-together unit. Despite its diminutive size it certainly doesn’t scream ‘entry-level’. The E30’s chassis is an all-aluminium affair, and perhaps the thing that I’m enjoying most about is so far is its orange LED multi-function display which informs the user of file-type, sampling rate, and volume-level. The unit’s faceplate is also touch-sensitive, allowing you to switch it on and off with a ‘tap’ of the power button.
Early listening tests with the E30 have proved it to be capable and impressive in terms of its sonic ability. It’s proving to be a transparent and revealing source, having thrown some well-recorded tracks that I’m intimately familiar with at it. It’s also proving itself to be easy to live with – its remote-switchable capability, as well as its pre-amp functionality, have so far given me the impression that the Topping E30 can happily act as the ‘brains’ of a desktop or two-channel audio system, without much in the way of sonic, or user-experience compromise.
I’ll be using the E30 as my sole D/A converter for the next few weeks upstream of a bunch of different amplifiers and headphones – I’m looking forward to sharing my detailed impression with you guys in the very near future. If the Topping E30 continues to impress like it has with me right out of the box, then it might well have to land squarely on your entry-level DAC consideration set. Watch this space!